The mining industry wasn’t the first to embrace Industry 4.0 and digital transformation generally, but it is accelerating adoption thanks to new technologies for collecting valuable data like drone systems, observing operations with cameras, measuring and improving yields, enabling workers to be safer and more productive, and reducing environmental impact and carbon emissions.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is all about connectivity, automation, AI, machine learning, digital twins, and showing up at the intersection of people and machines, and in the mining industry this can include Industrial IoT networks and applications, scanners, sensors, gateways, actuators, electric vehicles, cameras, remote monitoring, and remote service – all which live on data, generate data, and improve insights exponentially for operators.
One of the most popular applications is the use of drones, which are ideal for monitoring the very large areas mines take up. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are used for visual surveillance, mapping, stockpiles, and equipment inventory.
When used in combination with RTK technology, high accuracy data (within less than 5 cm in x, y and z axes) can be captured without the use of ground control points (GCP’s), saving time and money while also reducing the risk of harm to surveyors in hazardous areas.
Skycatch, for example, offers an integrated mining solution that is designed to capture data and automate processing on an edge device, an on-prem solution or in the cloud for viewing and further measurement and analysis. One Skycatch customer reportedly saved over $6 million in surveying costs in one year at eight sites and projects, and more than $35 million over the next 3 years.
New and very exciting studies suggest that AI is and will continue to be rolled out to help in many areas of the mining process. An AI system capable of receiving and reading terrain data from multiple sources, including the highest accuracy drone data, could improve the identification of bulges or shifts over time to mitigate problems before they become disastrous.
Digital twin in mining is used to construct a digital model of the physical site using geological and engineering data collected by drones, sensors, and surveys. Placing sensors on the land and enabling communication between those sensors and remote computers allows predictive simulations using real time data and the potential to anticipate and solve problems before they arise.
A well-designed mining operation in today’s age is smarter, connected, more efficient, and safer, thanks to tools like digital twin, AI analytics, and next-generation drone systems.